Minamata Convention Agreed by Nations: thimerosal containing vaccines exempt from mercury ban

23 Jan

Shot of Prevention are reporting Decision Made: No Global Ban on Thimerosal. A worldwide treaty has been finalized involving reducing mercury in the environment. Much discussion of late focused on whether thimerosal containing vaccines (thimerosal being a mercury compound) would be included in the mercury ban.

According to the United Nations Enviromntal Programme (UNEP) press release on the Minamata Convention:

Governments approved exceptions for some large measuring devices where currently there are no mercury-free alternatives.

–Vaccines where mercury is used as a preservative have been excluded from the treaty as have products used in religious or traditional activities

–Delegates agreed to a phase-down of the use of dental fillings using mercury amalgam.

From my perspective I would be happy to see thimerosal replaced with another safe preservative. There is no tested alternative method–either through preservatives or improved cold-chain control of vaccine distribution. And this U.N. body, people highly focused on the need to reduce the worldwide emissions of mercury, has determined that the use of mercury containing vaccines can continue. In other words–the arguments made that thimerosal containing vaccines were potentially unsafe were not convincing to a body whose sole purpose is limiting exposure to mercury. This includes the argument that thimerosal containing vaccines increase the risk of autism. And for this site, that is the important take-away: the notion of a mercury induced autism epidemic really isn’t well supported. Yet another example of how unconvincing the argument is.

By Matt Carey

6 Responses to “Minamata Convention Agreed by Nations: thimerosal containing vaccines exempt from mercury ban”

  1. futuredave5 January 23, 2013 at 08:38 #

    I don’t know if it means they are unconvinced by the argument, I think it just means they are not giving it much weight. This is a scientific response to a calculated risk: The UNEP is fighting a battle against preventable diseases that claim (literally) millions of lives each year. One of the best tools available in this battle is vaccination, and one of the best preservatives is mercury. Even if it causes some harm, it helps more than it hurts.

    If your house is burning down, it doesn’t matter if the water is contaminated.

  2. Lawrence January 23, 2013 at 14:37 #

    @futuredave5 – since the vast (and I mean VAST) majority of evidence supports the safety profile of thimerasol in vaccines, it isn’t even a question of risk vs. reward, it is a question of saving lives vs. misrepresentations / misinformation / outright fabrications.

    • futuredave5 January 23, 2013 at 16:49 #

      Lawrence, When the US started to remove mercury from vaccines, I don’t think it was because of misinformation, I think it was a precaution.

      The Public Health Service said that we should reduce mercury exposure in any case where we can do so without introducing unwarranted risks. I don’t think they were being misled, I think they were just looking at all the different ways that kids might be exposed to mercury, and decided that if you can eliminate one of the mercury sources, you may as well do it.

      When I grew up, I bet vaccines had a lot more mercury in them, but it was hardly a risk factor: There was a paper mill and a chemical plant right across the river. (We used to catch fish in that river.) I have no idea how much mercury I was exposed to from the river, but I bet it was many orders of magnitude more than I got from any vaccine.

      “Safe” is a relative term. Just because the river didn’t kill me doesn’t mean it was safe. It just means that my concerns about vaccines are nit-picking.

      What if it turns out that the toxins in the river in the 1960’s didn’t hurt me, but did eventually hurt my son?

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) January 24, 2013 at 01:55 #

        “Lawrence, When the US started to remove mercury from vaccines, I don’t think it was because of misinformation, I think it was a precaution. ”

        it was a lack of information. A recent paper states that with what they know now they would not have made that decision.

        “When I grew up, I bet vaccines had a lot more mercury in them, but it was hardly a risk factor”

        More mercury than when? Now? Sure. Than in the 1990’s? Probably not.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) January 24, 2013 at 01:57 #

      With the knowledge we have now, this is true. People who still claim that thimerosal is responsible for the increase in autism prevalence, for example, are wrong and are knowingly or unknowingly propogating incorrect information.

  3. lilady January 24, 2013 at 07:13 #

    I think this commentary by Orenstein, etal, on the AAP decision to support the WHO’s use of multi-dose vials of vaccines that contain Thimerosal states succinctly the reasons why the AAP supported the removal of Thimerosal in multi-dose vaccine vials. It also gives us the reasons, i.e., (a paucity of studies about the organomercury compound and the many studies available then, of elemental Hg and inorganic mercury and toxicities associated with them), for the precautionary recommendation by the AAP in 1999.

    Within three years of that first recommendation, as studies were complete, the AAP “retired” their Recommendation and removed that Recommendation from their website, yet did not issue a statement in support of multi-dose vaccine vials that contain Thimerosal as a preservative, until 2012.


    “…Thimerosal, which contains ethyl mercury, has been used as a preservative in vaccines to prevent contamination of multidose vials from bacteria and fungi since the 1930s.2 Although there are clear neurotoxic effects of methyl mercury absorption, ethyl mercury has not been associated with those consequences. Nevertheless, before data were available on risks of thimerosal in vaccines, in 1999 the American Academy of Pediatrics and the US Public Health Service recommended moving toward removing thimerosal use in preservatives as a precautionary measure.3 Thus, thimerosal as a preservative has been removed from most vaccines in the United States, generally resulting in distribution of vaccines in single-dose rather than multidose vials…”


    “…Overwhelmingly, the evidence collected over the past 15 years has failed to yield any evidence of significant harm, including serious neurodevelopmental disorders, from use of thimerosal in vaccines. Dozens of studies from countries around the world have supported the safety of thimerosal-containing vaccines. Specifically, the Institute of Medicine, and others have concluded that the evidence favors rejection of a link between thimerosal and autism.6–12 Careful studies of the risk of other serious neurodevelopmental disorders have failed to support a causal link with thimerosal.13–17 In May 2002, the American Academy of Pediatrics retired its 1999 statement on thimerosal after evaluating new studies.3,18 The original decision is explained in an accompanying commentary in this issue by Dr Louis Z. Cooper and Dr Samuel Katz.19 Had the evidence that is available now been available in 1999, the policy reducing thimerosal use would likely have not been implemented. Furthermore, in 2008 the World Health Organization (WHO) endorsed the use of thimerosal in vaccines.20…”

    True to form, all the anti-vaccine organizations are now accusing *Big Pharma*, The United States Public Health Service, The WHO, every agency everywhere involved in immunization programs, scientists and researchers of inflicting Thimerosal-laden vaccines on little brown and little black babies and children. Yes folks, anyone who supports multi-dose vials of vaccines are racists.

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